Sporting KC great Benny Feilhaber announces retirement

Longtime Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber announced his retirement Wednesday, bringing an end to a 15-year professional career.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A Sporting Kansas City great is calling it a career after 15 professional seasons.

Longtime Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber announced Wednesday that he is retiring from professional soccer, ending a brilliant 15-year career highlighted by an MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cup championships with Sporting as well as a Concacaf Gold Cup title and FIFA World Cup appearance with the United States Men’s National Team.

Feilhaber, 35, scored 56 goals in over 400 professional matches during a well-traveled club career that included stops in the German Bundesliga, English Premier League, Danish Superliga and Major League Soccer. Across nine MLS seasons, the creative midfielder recorded 41 goals and 63 assists in 271 appearances and became one of 17 players in league history to notch 40 goals and 60 assists in regular season play. Feilhaber also earned 44 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2007-2017, notably winning the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup, helping the USA to a second-place finish at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and playing three matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

“I have had the humbling privilege to compete alongside so many great teammates and coaches for the last 15 years, and I am extremely thankful for the moments we have shared together on and off the field,” Feilhaber said. “I also want to extend a massive thank you to all of the fans who supported me along the way. They have played an integral part of my wonderful journey since day one.”

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and raised in Irvine, California, Feilhaber finished his prolific Sporting tenure with 35 goals and 58 assists in 198 matches (175 starts) across all competitions. He spent two stints in Kansas City, guiding the club to five straight playoff appearances from 2013-2017 and returning in 2019 for his final professional season. His 35 goals and 58 assists rank seventh and third on the club’s all-time charts, respectively, and he is one of four players in club history — alongside Preki, Chris Klein and current Sporting defender Graham Zusi — with at least 30 goals and 50 assists.

“My six years at Sporting shaped me as a person and a player,” Feilhaber said. “I had the most individual and team success at this club, making lifelong friends and playing in front of the best supporters I’ve come across. I married the love of my life weeks before moving to Kansas City and we built our life and family during these special years. I’m so thankful for everything the club has given me and my family.

“Peter Vermes and the coaching staff got me to play at a level I didn’t know I had in me. I’m also grateful for the amazing teammates at Sporting and so proud of the winning memories we made with our fans — from the Cauldron to the South Stand and everywhere in between. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and Kansas City will forever be my home.”

According to Opta, Feilhaber was the only MLS player from 2011-2019 to total 40 goals, 40 assists, 250 chances created and 250 tackles won in the regular season. He launched his MLS career with the New England Revolution, where he spent 2011 and 2012 before starting his heralded tenure in Kansas City under Manager Peter Vermes. Acquired by Sporting in an offseason trade, Feilhaber made an instant impact with three goals and four assists during the 2013 regular season campaign. He saved his best performances for the playoffs, where he assisted Claudio Bieler’s winning goal in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against New England, tallied the game-winning assist in the Eastern Conference Championship versus Houston Dynamo and played all 120 minutes of the 2013 MLS Cup, converting his penalty in a dramatic shootout as Sporting knocked off Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park.

Feilhaber took another step forward in 2014 with four goals and seven assists in MLS play before reaching new heights the following year. In his most productive season, Feilhaber earned 2015 MLS All-Star and MLS Best XI honors as one of three MLS MVP finalists, setting a club record with 20 assists in all competitions and becoming just the third player in club history at the time to reach double-digit goals (10) and assists (15) in a single regular season. Five of his assists came in Sporting’s successful U.S. Open Cup campaign, which culminated in a shootout victory over the Philadelphia Union.

The 2016 campaign saw Feilhaber add another seven goals and 13 assists as one of the premier playmakers in MLS. His final season in his first spell with Sporting yielded five goals and another U.S. Open Cup title, with Feilhaber assisting Daniel Salloi’s game-winner in a 2-1 championship win over the New York Red Bulls at Children’s Mercy Park.

Feilhaber was an ever-present fixture for Los Angeles Football Club in 2018, starting 32 of 34 regular season appearances while guiding the team to the playoffs as one of the best expansion teams in league history with a 16-9-9 record. He spent the first two months of the 2019 campaign with the Colorado Rapids, bagging two goals and two assists in seven starts, before returning to Kansas City last May to notch an additional two goals and two assists in 18 games. The final touch of Feilhaber’s professional playing career was a stunning strike at the Portland Timbers on Sept. 7 that was ultimately tabbed Sporting KC Goal of the Year — an award he won on four occasions.

After two standout college seasons at UCLA, Feilhaber turned professional in 2005 at age 20 by signing with German side Hamburg. He excelled on Hamburg’s second team and broke through for his top-flight Bundesliga debut in October 2006. The following summer, Feilhaber joined English outfit Derby County and competed in the renowned Premier League for the 2007-2008 campaign. He then embarked on a three-year spell with AGF Aarhus in Denmark, where he logged five goals in 55 games as a regular starter.

On the international stage, Feilhaber helped the United States U-20s to an upset win over Argentina in the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship group stage, where he was first coached by Vermes who was a U-20 assistant at the time. Feilhaber made his senior international debut for the USA in March 2007 and three months later played a lead role at the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup. He started four matches in the competition and scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory over rivals Mexico in the final — a remarkable volley that remains one of the most iconic strikes in tournament history.

Feilhaber went on to make three appearances at the 2008 Summer Olympics in China before joining the USA for a thrilling run to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Final against Brazil, which included a stunning semifinal triumph over top-ranked Spain in the semifinals. At the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Feilhaber made three appearances as the USA finished atop Group C and reached the Round of 16. He collected his last cap for the U.S. MNT in October 2017.